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Long v. Knight

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

November 8, 2016

JONAH LONG, Plaintiff,
WENDY KNIGHT, Defendant.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Jonah Long brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendant has violated his First Amendment rights by restricting his right to communicate with his fiance, Kami Clemens.[1] The defendant moved for summary judgment and Long has filed a cross motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the defendant's motion for summary judgment [dkt 65] is granted and Long's cross motion [dkt 69] is denied.

         I. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v., Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) ("We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor."). However, "[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial." Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490.

         When faced with cross motions for summary judgment, the Court is to evaluate each motion on its merits, resolving factual uncertainties and drawing all reasonable inferences against the movant. Brownlee v. City of Chicago, 983 F.Supp. 776, 779 (N.D. 111. 1997).

         II. Factual Background

         At the time this lawsuit was filed, Long was incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility ("Wabash Valley"). While incarcerated at Wabash Valley, Long requested to communicate with an offender at another facility, Kami Clemens. Long stated in his requests for communication that Kami Clemens is his fiancee. His requests were denied and he filed this lawsuit.

         A. The Offender Correspondence Policy

         The Indiana Department of Correction ("IDOC") has a policy in place that governs offender correspondence. The purpose of the policy is to establish a mechanism for offenders to maintain contact with persons in the community through correspondence, printed materials and packages in a way that ensures the safety and security of the offenders involved and of the facilities. The Offender Correspondence policy governs restricted correspondence, which includes correspondence between offenders held in other correctional facilities. The burden of obtaining permission for restricted correspondence is with the offender. The offender must establish that the exchange of correspondence is in the best interests of both the confined persons and the facilities involved. According to the defendant, allowing communication between offenders housed at different facilities creates serious safety concerns for offenders and prison staff. IDOC takes the safety and security of all offenders and staff very seriously. The safety and security of offenders and staff is the reason why offenders must show that communication between offenders would be in the best interests of the offenders and the facilities. Several of the factors that IDOC considers when deciding whether communication between offenders is in the best interest of the facility is the familial relationship between the offenders, whether the offenders have a child together, their prior criminal history, and their prior personal history.

         B. Long's Requests for Communication

         While he was incarcerated at Wabash Valley, Long requested to communicate with Clemens and that request was denied. Long has not requested to communicate with Clemens while incarcerated at CIF. However, a review of Long's previous requests, and the documentation found in his offender packet and other documents available to DOC, would lead officials at CIF to deny his request for correspondence with Kami Clemens, if he were to submit such a request.

         Long and Clemens are not immediate family, nor do they have a child together. In addition, Long and Clemens are listed as co-defendants on confidential documents found in Long's offender packet and they both have a history of drug abuse and/or distribution. First, in July of 2012, Clemens was driving away from a home that was under police surveillance for suspected drug activity. Her car was stopped and searched by police who discovered and seized crystal methamphetamine and other drug paraphernalia. She told police that Long was in the residence at the time. Then, according to the opinion of the Indiana Court of Appeals on the appeal of Long's conviction, on September 7, 2012, Indiana State Police officers were conducting a narcotics investigation at a hotel in Indianapolis. When they knocked on the door of a room registered to Long, Clemens opened the door. In the room, the officer found digital scales and glass pipes. The officer then advised other officers to look for Long. Later, officers observed Long approach the hotel and signaled him to stop, at which time he stopped the car, exited the car, and ran away.

         IDOC has determined that communication between Long and Clemens is not in the best interests of the facility or the offenders. Offenders have previously used written communication for purposes of gang-related and drug-related activity, and such communications need to be carefully monitored. Because the status of "fiance" is impossible to document and can be declared or removed by offenders at any time, mandating communications between fiances at different facilities may effectively require IDOC to create an entirely new and costly framework for dealing with illicit offender-to-offender communication sent under the guise of being love letters.

         III. ...

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